Posted 15th July 2021 | 5 Comments

Railfreight operators welcome decarbonisation plan

THE Transport Decarbonisation Plan unveiled by the government has been welcomed by the railfreight industry.

The plan sets out a programme of decarbonising transport completely by 2050, and is being described by the government as a 'greenprint'.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: 'It’s not about stopping people doing things: it’s about doing the same things differently. We will still fly on holiday, but in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable fuel. We will still drive, but increasingly in zero emission cars.'

Rail Freight Group director general Maggie Simpson said the plan sets out a 'clear vision'. She continued: 'We welcome Government’s commitment to setting a target for rail freight growth, and to the electrification of strategic gaps in the network, allowing more freight to be electrically hauled.

'Businesses across the country are looking to make more use of rail freight as they work to decarbonise their supply chain. This Plan should help underpin the investments they need to make to do so – but it must now be backed by the necessary action to deliver on the Government’s ambition.'

However, two out of three civil engineers do not feel climate change is given sufficient priority in infrastructure design and construction, according to new research by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

A survey of 900 UK-based ICE members found that 66 per cent of infrastructure professionals felt greenhouse gas emissions were given less or far less importance than they would like.

Meanwhile, some transport operators have been published their own plans to cut carbon.

Go-Ahead Group has set out a strategy to 'lead the transport industry in carbon reduction' by achieving a 75 per cent cut in emissions by 2035, and becoming fully carbon neutral by 2045 – five years ahead of the government's own target. Trains operated by Govia – the consortium led by Go-Ahead – have been given a carbon-free target of 2035.

Go-Ahead Group chief executive David Brown said: 'Climate change is the number one challenge facing society and in order to address it, we must make radical changes to the way we travel. If we’re serious about protecting the health of our planet, then businesses such as Go-Ahead must show leadership.

'Our climate change plan is ambitious but deliverable, and is consistent with international goals of limiting any increase in global temperature to 1.5°C. We will play our part by decarbonising our business and by investing in environmentally sustainable technology. We hope our commitment will be matched by a broader shift in public policy on transport by encouraging people to walk or cycle where possible, use buses and trains as an alternative but only use a car if absolutely necessary.'

Reader Comments:

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  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Just a "footnote"re. Charterail, Generally,one reason "piggyback" has not been followed up in this country is the need for specially strengthen semitraiers that can withstand being lifted bodily on / off rail wagons.

    Systems such as "Charterail" and "Modalohr" , though, don't involve lifting, with the semitrailer simply backed onto the appropriate rail vehicle.

    Loading guage questions only become a difficulty for low density "hi - cube"shipments.

    Lastly, these systems don't need high cost terminal equipment, only some flat ground with rail and road access.

  • Christopher Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    The question is asked how Charterail operated in the early 90's & why it didn't survive. The answer is that under the prevailing market conditions it was not financially viable. Also the Charterail services were dedicated to the distribution of an individual customer's goods rather than an aggregator of traffic from multiple sources. True in recent years loading gauge issues have been addressed in order make the passage of 9'6" boxes less restrictive so there may be scope for further investigation of the viability of piggy backing semi trailers but in my opinion within the constraints of the UK loading gauge this would at best suit a niche operation.

    Rail's great advantage is transporting volume over distance. As intermodal has replaced coal as the dominant source of railfreight the key has been matching rails advantage with road's flexibility. The increasing partnerships between road & rail operators show the pragmatic approach to marrying the benefits of each mode.

    The flexibility afforded by diesel traction means today too much mileage is being run under the wires which should really be in the hands of electric locos. While Bi-mode loco like the Class 88's provide a solution to the last mile conundrum those companies already invested in Class 90 & 92 electrics need a compelling investment case to look at replacing these assets when they still have years of useful service to give. Sadly these assets remain underutilised while basic infill electrification schemes such as Nuneaton to Birmingham & Thames Gateway to Thames Haven Jn remain unwired. Also remember the Electric Spine proposal that would have opened electrification from Southampton to the Midlands? As other commentators have noted we've had the political hot air now where's the investment to back the rhetoric?

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Despite the loss, over the past few years of the coal industry , rail freight has managed to thrive, mainly through the expanding traffic of ISO containers to / from the ports.

    However, "inland" movement ( including through the Chunnel) have remained mostly with the trucking industry. It seems many factories and warehouses are configured to deal with semitrailers rather than with ISO containers. So, why does there appear to be no railfreight operator looking at the carriage of semitrailers on rail ? Of course, there is a tighter loading guage factor in GB, although this is already being eased on routes where 9'6"containers are transported.

    In the early 1990's, a company "Charterail" started such a venture in GB, but had to cease, because of claimed "rackrent" haulage charges by BR. A nearly identical system "Modalohr" has recently started on the Continent. If there is a loading guage problem still , it would seem that low - loader semitrailers conveying "dense" freight could still be catered to. If there were to be insuperable problems re. this , how come "Charterail" could run their service in 1990 / 91 ?

  • Nick Fowles, Todmorden

    How about this as a very simple idea to get freight onto rail.
    Zero track access charges for any freight hauled by electric trains for 90% of its journey length. That would allow short distance diesel running through gaps and into terminals.
    It would also incentives Rail freight companies to buy modern Bi-modes.
    Maybe this could be the challenge to the Government to put a bit of money to the rhetoric?

  • Sam Green, York

    Won't bring freight onto to Rail no matter how much they bleat on about de-carbonisation! The only thing that will, is lowering track access charges for rail freight companies ,investment and Government loans or subsidies! Especially for new to rail business! It's all just hot air coming out of politicians mouths otherwise !